Internalized Prison Industrial System by Fabian Romero
Accountability is not something that I grew up with or saw it being modeled regularly. I worked for 2 years in youth prisons and I witnessed and was a part of the punitive and destructive prison industrial complex. If you think that the prison industrial complex only affects those who are incarcerated or have family in prisons, think again. We are taught punitive systems as a norm so trying to break out of punishing ourselves or others for wrongdoings takes time and skill. Skill to me is anything that requires intentional learning and practicing. Building accountability skills requires a general understanding of privilege and a willingness to move away from defending ourselves when we are called out for oppressive behavior.
if you are serious about anti-oppression/liberation work you gotta let go of your ego and learn to apologize. this work isn’t about you knowing all the answers or spitting out facts to cover up fucked behavior, this work when done right kicks our egos ass to make room for learning and listening.
with time it gets easier to catch our defensiveness and step away without saying hurtful things, but until then learn to apologize. letting go of pride, admitting fault and changing behaviors are integral to learning about our privileges. if we fight every person who points out our hurtful behavior we will never get past our ego.
Learning to listen, learning to step back and move away from the ways we have embodied the prison industrial system in our responses to being asked to consider our oppressive or hurt behavior is needed to counter the prison industrial system. I think about defensiveness as the need for oppressed people prove themselves “believable” and this isn’t far from how our “justice” system is designed. Instead I urge you to look critically at your defensiveness and notice that it is a part of the ways that we push away our responsibility as people who have privilege. Because privilege is a responsibility and every privilege that you and I hold are at the expense of people who don’t get the same access and credibility. When we are the privileged ones in a conversation notice how quickly people believe us compared to when we are the targets of oppression. So accountability starts and includes 1. learning about your privilege(s) 2. learning to apologize and 3. self forgiveness.
I believe that self forgiveness is an act of liberation and write about it often on my blog. I share about my struggle with internalized oppression and how part of that includes an internalized need to punish myself when I make mistakes to the point of inaction and passivity. Punishing others and ourselves results in inaction because of the fear associated with making mistakes. I hear a lot of talk about guilt being a motivator and I don’t think it is sustainable and often operates within our internalized capitalistic and PIC mentalities of continuing to punish ourselves while gaining empathy from people about our oppressive behavior.
If I cannot forgive myself for mistakes, how am I going to forgive others and cultivate the patience needed to work with people of many different backgrounds, privileges and awareness. If we are truly going to move away from punishing each other, we gotta stop punishing ourselves. Getting better at self forgiveness allows us to hold compassion for ourselves, grow our capacity for compassion for others and stay accountable for our privilege.